Pak-American Contract with the People of Pakistan
By Muhammad Salim Akhtar


Washington, DC: If, in the context of struggle for democracy in Pakistan, the most important document produced so far is the Charter of Democracy, initially penned by the leaders of PML-N and PPP and later signed by most of the opposition parties, then the most noteworthy document produced by Pakistani-Americans to date is the “Pakistani-American Contract with the People of Pakistan” put together by nine grassroots organizations under the banner of their US-wide coalition, the Pakistan American National Alliance (PANA).
As stated in the preamble, PANA has created this contract “to share our vision based on our learning and experiences in relatively advanced democracy. The PANA Contract comprises of three parts: a) Charter of Pakistani-American Obligations, b) Support for structural, procedural and constitutional changes recommended by Pakistani political parties, and c) Code of Conduct for Pakistani political parties.
Here is a summary of the Contract:

Charter of Pakistani American Obligations:
While each individual has the democratic right to disagree with, disapprove or criticize this or that government, political party or ideology, or trend in Pakistan, this charter is based on the firm conviction that each Pakistani-American bears a personal responsibility for helping improve life conditions in Pakistan. These obligations include but are by no means limited to poverty alleviation, education, healthcare, economy and infra-structural development at one level, and human rights, minority rights, gender equality, democracy, rule of law, transparency, accountability, good governance, institution building, and peace with justice, at another.
Structural and Constitutional Changes:
We, therefore, join the Pakistani civil society in demanding:
Supremacy of the Constitution: As the first step, the 1973 Constitution as on 12th October 1999 before the military coup shall be restored with the provisions of joint electorates, minorities, and women’s reserved seats on closed party list in the Parliament, the lowering of the voting age, and the increase in seats in parliament and the legal Framework Order, 2000 and the Seventeenth Constitutional Amendment shall be repealed accordingly.
Independent Judiciary: In order to maintain independence of judiciary, a Judicial Commission consisting of members of the Judiciary, the Bar, the government and the opposition should be constituted for the appointment of judges of the superior courts. The tenure of office of the judges should be seventy years. They should not be given any other office during service or after retirement.
Free Media: To ensure complete freedom of the print and electronic media, we call for a) that the Pakistan government should abolish all coercive mechanisms of direct and indirect censorship, b) end media manipulation by various intelligence organizations, c) set up an objective, legally actionable, criteria for the allocation of government advertisement funds, and d) institute Freedom of Information laws, including laws requiring open meetings by all government agencies.
Autonomous Election Commission: Formation and working of an independent, autonomous, and impartial Election Commission should be enshrined and guaranteed through a constitutional amendment. The said amendment should make the Election Commission entirely immune from pressures or manipulation by the establishment or the opposition.
State and the Civil Society: The military must be fully subordinated to civil authority and completely excluded from governance.
There should be complete ban over appointment of serving or retired members of the armed forces for any civil post.
The overthrowing of elected government should be declared a crime – a capital offense - under Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The National Security Council should be abolished and the political wings of all intelligence agencies should be disbanded.
Code of Conduct for the Political Parties: Civilian rule preceding Gen Musharraf’s coup has left behind an unfortunate legacy of distrust based on impressions of debilitating incompetence, gross negligence and massive corruption. It remains the primary responsibility of major electoral parties to acknowledge, fix and prevent these problems with aim of healing the political society. Political parties must institute formal systems to purge themselves of their outlaw members and officers.
We hold all political parties, the two major parties in particular, accountable in terms of their public commitment to the people of Pakistan stipulated in Article 22 of the Charter of Democracy: “We shall not join a military regime or any military sponsored government.” We also hold accountable for their commitment that “No party shall solicit the support of military to come into power or to dislodge a democratic government.”
We demand that all parties should institute regular internal elections. Party nominees (candidates) for federal and state elections must be chosen by rank and file members in Primary Elections organized by the Election Commission of Pakistan. These election must be based on Election Commission-verified and not make-believe membership rosters.

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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